Tips for Gluten-Free Travel (Part One)
Matt is a Bread SRSLY Ambassador and one half of the duo behind the travel blog Wheatless Wanderlust. We asked Matt to share with our community some of his best tips, tricks and tools for traveling gluten-free. He had so much helpful advice to share that we’ve split up his guest post. Stay tuned for part two next week!
The first time I traveled internationally was three years after being diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Despite having a few years of living gluten-free under my belt, I was still anxious about exploring a new place. Where would I eat? What if I couldn’t find a safe restaurant? What if I got sick on vacation? All of these questions swirled around in my mind as I worked through planning my trip. And frankly, it was a little overwhelming. On that post-diagnosis trip, I often found myself anxiously scrambling to find a place to eat or second guessing my previous research. Worrying about shared fryers and whether that white sauce had flour in it took me out of the moment and the immersive experience that travel can be. Over a decade after this initial trip, I’ve now traveled around the world to places like Colombia, New Zealand, Hungary, and many more. Though I still occasionally get anxious about traveling to new places, I now have a set of tools and tricks that I use to make traveling gluten-free less stressful and more enjoyable.
I’m sharing some of my favorite tips, tricks, and tools with you so you can have those immersive travel experiences you’ve been dreaming about without worrying about where you’re going to find safe gluten-free food for lunch. If you’ve done your planning right, you’ll already have a list of restaurants to choose from, and you could always head back to the kitchen where you’re staying to whip something up if you find yourself in a pinch.
The number one tip I have for you? Like Scar in The Lion King would say, “Be Prepared.” You’ll need to do research ahead of time by looking at guides written by other gluten-free bloggers (I recommend Googling “gluten-free *city name* or *country name*”), connecting with local Celiac Associations, and using apps like Find Me Gluten Free (an app great for finding dedicated gluten-free restaurants) to make a list of safe spots you’re excited to enjoy.
Below, you will find four gluten-free travel tips- in my next post, I'll be sharing three great gluten-free travel destinations, two things to pack, and one secret that will help you travel anywhere in the world.
4 Tips for Gluten-Free Travelers
A.B.S. Always. Bring. Snacks.
Have you ever been hangry (hungry + angry)? I certainly have. You’re not going to be a fun travel companion or tourist when you’re hangry, and you’re actually more likely to take risks that might make you sick on your trip. As someone who has gotten sick on vacation before, I don’t recommend the experience. While you don’t need to go overboard and pack a separate suitcase exclusively for your snacks, it helps to bring plenty of snacks like nuts and seeds (if you can safely enjoy them), energy and protein bars, dried fruit, and chocolate (the most important!) just in case you find yourself in a pinch.
Request a Gluten-Free Meal in Advance on International Flights
Did you know you can almost always get a safe, gluten-free meal on international flights? The catch is you have to request it at least 48-72 hours in advance, depending on the airline. Is plane food good? Not really. Do you want to spend 8-16 hours on a plane without eating? Definitely not really.
Pro-tip: Always call the airline at least 72 hours before your trip to confirm they have your request. I’ve been left out multiple times before and had to sustain myself exclusively on snacks for an entire trans-Atlantic flight, which I do not recommend even a little bit.
On domestic flights in the United States, it’s worth checking with the airline to see what kind of gluten-free options will be available on your flight. Usually, you can find this information online. I have been pleasantly surprised with the options on Alaska Airlines, which usually has a snack pack that is gluten-free, and JetBlue, which has free snacks, several of which are gluten-free.
Take Cooking Classes and Food Tours with Local Guides
I have had some extraordinary food experiences through cooking classes and market tours with local guides all over the world. It’s one of my favorite things to do when I travel, and I’ve made some memories at cooking classes in Chile, Colombia, and Mexico.
The benefit to going this route, especially if there is a language barrier, is the guides will be more than happy to help you navigate the local food scene, giving you inside knowledge on what dishes might contain gluten that you hadn’t thought of, and a vocabulary lesson to help you ask questions.
You’ll need to confirm with the host or company that they can accommodate your needs in advance. It goes without saying not every cooking class is going to be good for someone who needs to eat gluten-free. You’re probably going to have to skip the croissant making class in Paris and the handmade pasta class in Rome.
Use Google Maps Saved Places
I swear by the “Saved Places” feature on Google Maps for making maps of the cities I’m visiting and noting where I’ll be able to find the best gluten-free food, coffee shops, photo spots, and more. You can save all of those places onto a map so when you’re exploring, you can pull it up and see what’s nearby.
That’s all for now! Watch this space for more from Matt next week (including but not limited to his gluten-free city guides!), and in the meantime, be sure to give him a follow at @wheatless_wanderlust on Instagram.